This was another fun episode in a beautiful setting. The first three teams to arrive in Croatia where all shown exclaiming over the scenery. Dubrovnik has been added to my list of places to visit someday!
This episode was all about teamwork and that I believe is a key aspect to this season’s theme. Azaria and Hendekea had a brief falling out as a team; they never recovered from it and were eliminated.
Last week’s winners Rachel and TK came in fourth this week due to missed plane connection. No matter what happens to these two, they are determined to stay calm. “When we are cool and keeping a mellow head in the race in the race, we’re not doing just that because we are in a race, we’re doing that because that is who we are.” Rachel adds, “It’s healthy for our state of mind and good for our relationship.” TK mispronounced Dubrovnik and Rachel said, “Croatia, that sounds like somewhere gymnasts come from or something” showing us they aren’t the smartest racers out there. But they have a plan and they stick to it – and it works for them. At the airport TK says, “When everyone started running around, we stuck to what our plan was…” Due to a delay, they missed their connection; they stayed calm, found another flight and literally flied through the tasks in Dubrovnik. TK cheered Rachel on, “Stay calm – that’s the way to do it,” and they were ecstatic with their fourth place finish.
In other seasons, this team might be in trouble at this point, but their positive outlook towards each other and the race signals longevity this season.
Kynt and Vxysin continue their run near the top of the pack. Kynt explains their success, “One thing I feel Vxysin and I do are encouraging each other to do our best. Sadly, we have not yet had the privilege of hearing Phil say, ‘Kynt and Vxysin, you’re number one.’” Somehow, I think it’s just a matter of time before we do hear that. At the airport Kynt comments, “TK and Rachel are another team like us – kind of off the beaten path. We definitely get along with them.” This random comment at this point in the game suggests longevity for all four of them and perhaps they will be in direct competition down the road.
This season does not have too many savvy racers, but the Goths showed that they are indeed knowledgeable. At the airport in Vilnius they stay calm and collected and they don’t give up after finding the first flight. They looked at all options and end up choosing the best flight (by luck) to Croatia. Kynt asks, “Why are they all lined up?” Vxysin replies, “because they’re sheep.” Ronald and Christina are the only other team who research flights well. There is a pack mentality among the racers, so a team who thinks for themselves could really benefit.
Kynt thanks the old man at the roadblock, “it’s great to build with you.” We always see him thanking the locals when he does a roadblock. Kynt and Vxysin have had the most consistent, well-rounded edit so far. They work well with each other, interact nicely with locals everywhere and have commented on other teams and been commented on. They are definitely end-game players!
Ronald and Christina’s persistence pays off this week in a first place win. They have done much better than I expected during the early legs, and I’m beginning to think that they last longer than we originally expected (actually they already have!). Their teamwork this week seemed to be a metaphor for the season. Ronald had the key quote this week, “I don’t think every team recognizes that the relationship between their partners is critical to winning the race. It’s easier said than done.”
Christina comments at the beginning of the leg, “Because my dad and I are working out our communication, our progress in the race reflects the progress in our relationship.” They have come a long way, but as Christina points out to her dad, “see how nice you are to her, that’s how nice you should be to me,” they still have room for improvement. They are working well enough to place first in Dubrovnik, but the question is how long it will last. I haven’t seen the introduction of another storyline (with the possible exception of the run-ins with Nick and Don). Will their good communication bubble burst or will they make it to the final three? Time will tell; I think it could go either way.
They are good with directions or aren’t afraid to ask because they find the first clue box easily while the Goths and Jen and Nate get lost. It gives them enough time to pull ahead, and Ron does the roadblock quickly. The way they work together rowing the boat illustrates their teamwork. Christina wanted her dad to row facing front. Ron listens to her and then decides that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” (I wondered if that line was kept in to foreshadow their demise?) and wants to row using his back. They end up rowing together which makes Christina happy that she’s pulling her weight too. They race to the finish mat and Christina says, “My Dad and I are living proof that success on TAR is about teamwork.”
Jen and Nate spend this leg fighting each other. Their story is increasingly focusing on their dysfunctional relationship. Phil notes in “previously on” that Nate and Jen took their stress out on each other, and then he asks at the beginning of the leg, “Will Nate be able to change his behavior under stress and convince Jen that he is the guy for her in the long run?” This is followed up with Jen saying as they leave the pit stop, “I am really disappointed now that we are halfway through. I look back and it’s incredible but with regrets because Nate and I have fought so much. As far as Nate and I being together in the end, the rest of the race is going to be a test and the final deciding point. There is no talk about their quest for first place even though they come in second again and with their penalty finish in third.
This team has emotional highs and incredibly ugly lows. Jen was excited to go to Croatia, then was all frazzled at the Vilnius airport, then was leaping and skipping around Fort Lawrence. Nate does the roadblock fairly easily and they are happy and proud. Then comes the detour where they have a terrible fight trying to row the boat. They do finally work as a team paddling the rowboat like a canoe but their harmony is short-lived when Jen has her temper tantrum searching for a taxi. During her tirades Jen says, “This sucks.” “Our relationship sucks.” “I am so miserable.” “I can’t deal with this anymore.” “I don’t want to do this anymore.” Up until this point, I thought that they could work together despite their problems. But I got the feeling this week that it was the end of their story. I don’t think we’ve been shown room for another chapter from them. Jen sums up their relationship at the end, “As far as Nate and I being together in the end, it’s unpredictable. Right now our relationship has been so up and down and that’s what I’m sick of right now. I don’t know if it’s too late. We’ve been through a lot.” Their relationship really dominated the episode. Lorena and Jason were eliminated the episode after Lorena had her meltdown. Nate and Jen don’t work as a team. They don’t think ahead, they just react. This fits into the pattern of the teams that have already been eliminated.
Donald and Nicolas escape elimination again because of another team’s mistake. In the recap Phil points out that Nick got lost in Vilnius (We see Nick saying “I have no clue where I am”) causing them to fall to last place. Their confessions at the beginning of the episode are ironic – Don says 6th place has motivated him and Nic says you can no longer play to not make a mistake, you have to play aggressively. Neither of which was true for them this week. Don is going so slowly at the roadblock that Nick admonishes him, “Come on Grandpa, it’s a race!” To the camera Nick says, “He’s going very methodical, just like his strategy for the race.” Nick urges him to go faster, and Don says, “I’m giving it all I got. I am tired.” This team is running out of steam, and even though they are starting to annoy each other, their steadiness is keeping them in it so far. Don’s experience came in handy again when he showed Nick how to row and they were able to beat Azaria and Hendekea to the finish mat and avoid elimination. It is funny how Nick says “I’m clueless” at least once every episode. I confess I’m not sure how that ties into their story! If the theme is teamwork and balance, they might outlast Jen and Nate even though everything indicates they should have been eliminated by now!
After this week I am beginning to think that Jen and Nate were the big midpoint story and not Ron and Christina. There is nothing to indicate that Ron and Christina will leave soon and a lot of evidence that Jen and Nate don’t have what it takes. If Ron and Christina embody the spirit of The Amazing Race, that leaves Rachel and TK and Kynt and Vxysin to fight it out at the end, perhaps Ron and Christina even give them a run for their money. Don keeps plodding along slowly and Nick has his clueless moments, but they work well together as a team and that is why they are still in this race.
Christmas cookies with Sharnina